Exploring the future of healthcare design

Interest in and attention to the design and architecture of today’s healing environments has exploded over the past decade, as evidenced by the rapid growth of our sister title, HEALTHCARE DESIGN, and its annual conference, HCD.11, which is being held this week at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Conference Center in Nashville, Tenn.


As HEALTHCARE DESIGN’s editor-in-chief, Todd Hutlock, notes in a recent blog, just a few years ago hospitals and other healthcare facilities “for the most part still resembled nothing more than large shoeboxes or college dormitories—hardly the ‘healing environments’ we’ve come to know today. [Y]ou can really see these trends develop, as ideas that once seemed to be outside the box are now commonplace features that one can hardly imagine healthcare facilities not including—things like access to natural light and single patient rooms that were far from being the status quo a decade ago.”

Still, much of our healthcare infrastructure is aging, with scores of 1970s and older facilities out there. At one of yesterday’s conference sessions, a design expert noted that industry trends toward technology upgrades and private patient rooms are compelling owners and developers to consider taking on building projects. Another driver of change: social, economic and demographic trends, including the swelling ranks of baby boomers entering their senior years.

In another session, “Accountable Care: Ecology in Healthcare Delivery,” experts addressed the current mode of healthcare, which they conclude is not sustainable. “The three ‘cans of spending waste’—behavioral, operational and clinical—add up to half of all healthcare dollars. So how do we fix it and apply new models of care for a new delivery system,” asked HEALTHCARE DESIGN’s Hutlock.

Panelest Steven Steinberg took a stab at the question, says Hutlock, sketching out the features that the hospital tool box of the future would need: sustainability, modularity, patient focus, interconnectivity, mobility, integrated care, efficiency and community involvement. “A long and involved list to be sure, but Steinberg's upshot at the end of the discussion was that healthcare currently treats the disease instead of keeping people healthy before they are sick, and that needs to change,” says Hutlock.

Topics: Design